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A partner at a prominent Bay Area law firm found herself in an unenviable predicament: How could she better manage a difficult client relationship? The answer didn’t come from the firm’s leaders, her colleagues or her mom. It came from her business development coach. The problem, the coach said, was likely a dissimilarity in personality types. And he helped her work through it using the Myers-Briggs typology assessment. “He said, ‘This is where you are. Assess where they are on the quadrant.’ � And, if I was on the lower-right quadrant then [the client was] on the upper left,” the lawyer recalls. Next came the epiphany that helped her muster the patience to keep the client relationship thriving. “If I want to interact with this person, I need to try a different approach,” she realized. Somewhere on the continuum between marketing gurus and psychologists lie law firm coaches. Their relationships with the lawyers they advise are sometimes casual, sometimes prescribed, sometimes ordered from on high from firm managers and sometimes personally solicited for career advancement. But as coaches become a more commonplace fixture in American law firms, their roles are becoming more structured. Some firms have begun formal coaching programs for associates and junior partners to navigate the thorny transition from service lawyer to business getter. Others have brought in coaches to help their most senior leadership deal with issues as vital as client retention and as solemn as succession planning. “What I notice is that two or three years ago, it was a difficult thing to bring in a coach,” says Martha Sullivan, a San Rafael-based coach and consultant. “Most lawyers felt that they didn’t need a coach, that their fellow lawyers did, but they didn’t.” In fact, in the new year several firms are either launching new coaching programs or expanding existing ones. Fenwick & West, which has for years offered coaching to a handful of lawyers, will now make its program available to all partners. And the firm plans to integrate its business development training with the coaching program. Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass is launching a program that offers coaching to lawyers in their seventh through ninth years of practice. “We wanted it to not be some generic template and program,” says Tay Via, a Coblentz, Patch partner who is helping develop the program. Latham & Watkins; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; and Reed Smith are considering similar efforts, as is Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which currently runs a pilot program. “This has gotten quite popular,” agrees Jim Cranston, director of business development at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pitman. “My own take is that � everybody is looking for an edge, an advantage.” MULTIPLE METHODS Approaches to coaching are as varied as the coaches themselves. Michael Colacchio of Clear Impact, the coach who worked with the Bay Area partner described earlier, asks attorneys to work with him for at least six months. During that time, he helps lawyers examine their practice areas, identify prospects and close on business. For instance, he might help the lawyer role-play future scenarios, such as asking a client for a premium after successfully completing a major transaction. Or, he might suggest specific ways for an attorney to try to get business at a conference, such as strategizing about who to sit next to and what to talk about. “It helped me close on a number of client opportunities because I was very focused with respect to those efforts,” said the Bay Area partner mentioned earlier. By contrast, coaches Lawrence and Robert Kohn of Kohn Communications in Los Angeles require no long-term commitment from their clients. They work almost exclusively over the phone, offering busy lawyers 15-minute conversations each month. The $200-per-call price tag pays for 30 minutes of a coach’s time, half of which is spent preparing for the next call. “What we focus on is giving assignments, and we follow up monthly,” says Lawrence Kohn. “We say, ‘Here is what you need to do in the next 30 days. I will call you exactly on time.’ That is a signature for us. We like you to be sitting there when we call.” Paul, Hastings partner Charles Thornton, who has been calling Lawrence Kohn for the past eight years, says he found the conversations particularly useful when he was opening the firm’s San Francisco office and balancing the responsibilities of recruitment and attracting new clients with the demands of his own practice. “He is somebody to help focus you and say, ‘What have you done for yourself lately?’” says Thornton. “And he is very encouraging.” Yet another approach is that of Sara Holtz, founder of Roseville-area based ClientFocus, a former general counsel who does individual coaching, but also runs an invitation-only roundtable for female partners. Participants meet twice a year for two years at an annual cost of $4,000. In addition, there are monthly group phone coaching calls to follow-up on what was addressed during the in-person sessions. Kara Baysinger, a Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal partner, found Holtz’s client perspective useful. “I hate to knock on the wood railing, but I am having my best year ever,” she says. And she gives some of the credit to Holtz. In particular, Baysinger said, Holtz helped her realize that a meeting following the completion of a major matter for a life insurance client was critical to continuing that relationship. On Holtz’s advice, Baysinger attended the meeting with just one other partner, rather than a large group of lawyers. And from that successful meeting, Baysinger won more business, transforming the client into her largest account. Additionally, Baysinger says the sessions led her to redirect her marketing efforts. She used to give a lot of speeches. Now she leaves that to her junior partners and spends more one-on-one time with clients. Despite the rave reviews, coaching has its critics. There are those who feel that it has a limited shelf-life: After about six months, lawyers either get the concepts or they don’t. Others worry that the knowledge gained in coaching isn’t shared with other lawyers. “I don’t think it provides a good return on investment,” says Greg Clark, VP of business development for Cooley Godward. “For our firm, internal programs can touch more people than individual coaches.” This can come into play when deciding who pays for coaching. “It is easier for firms to identify need on a group basis than an individual basis,” says Baysinger, who paid for her own coaching this time around but might be submitting her bill to the firm in the future. Other lawyers said their firms paid: “I never even saw the bill,” said Thornton. While some firms already have armies of business development professionals in house, there are reasons for turning to outsiders. “If some lawyer is really uncomfortable with a particular thing, if they really are uncomfortable writing or speaking, or their family situation is such that they can’t go out in the evenings, or they don’t know what to say, that can be an embarrassing problem,” says Lawrence Kohn. Ultimately, success depends on the chemistry and the personal relationship forged between lawyer and coach. “We always have mixed reviews,” says Robert Kahn, manager of business development for Fenwick & West, of his firm’s past experiments with coaching. “But the overall response is positive.”

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